Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Cherokee Bean Balls

Last year, March was mostly devoted to the celebrations leading up to Lent, Mardi Gras in America and Carnaval in Brazil, so, today being Mardi Gras, if you'd like to check out those recipes, click here. For this month, we're chugging along with traditional Native American recipes. Which has gotten a lot easier with the acquisition of corn meal!

An easy thing to start with seemed to be something called bean balls which only require 4 cups of corn meal, 1/2 cup of wheat flour, 1 teaspoon of baking soda (to replace the more traditional lye water), and 2 cups of beans. 

Every recipe that I found online (and there are a ton) called for either just "beans" or "brown beans." I honestly couldn't figure out what brown beans were, so I used pinto beans because the internet informed me that pinto beans are one the most prevalent of the beans in North American. They are also quite high in fiber and protein. I was also supposed to buy dry beans, but since I am poor, I bought a can of pinto beans from Meijer for less than a dollar, which contained about 2 cups worth. Meijer is also where I obtained the huge bag of corn meal.

Trivia: For most of the 20th century, Michigan was the largest producer of pinto beans in the United States.
First, I set my pot of water to boil. I knew it would take a while because I was using one of my large spaghetti pots. (Been using those a lot lately.) Next, I blended the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl that truthfully was not quite large enough. Maybe I need a deeper one? I used my electric mixer because I love that thing and because I mildly injured my arm yesterday at work, thus I am avoiding any real strenuous efforts with that arm so as to avoid problems later. (Like when I go back to work tomorrow.) 

Since I was using a can of beans rather than boiled ones, I just dumped the entire can, undrained, into the bowl with the thoroughly blended dry ingredients. That turned out to not be enough liquid to hold it all together, though, so I added roughly 1.5 cups of water and stirred first with the mixer, then with my bare hands until the dough would stay together when I patted it into balls in my hands. Note: I tried rolling the dough between my palms, and that just made it fall apart. 

By then the water was bubbling away, and I managed to fit a dozen little balls - think meatballs - into the pot, which I then left to boil lightly for half an hour. I repeated this process until all of my dough was done and cooked, about two and a half batches.

I ended up serving these with the bean soup that I made last week and had stuck in the freezer along with some seasoned greens that I also bought in a can because I was both curious what seasoned greens in a can would taste like (not terrible) and because I was too short on time to make them from scratch.

Kimmy and I agreed the bean balls ended up a little bland, so if I do them again (and they really are a wonderful accompaniment to bean soup as dumplings), I would add some salt to the batter, possibly garlic salt (because garlic is awesome).

By the way, I'm sorry for the late entry. I've been having internet problems. This entry took me all afternoon and into the evening!

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